Here’s where we are: rushing without adequate investigation to appoint Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, for life, making him potentially the second justice credibly accused of sexual misconduct and the first accused of attempted rape.
With Clarence Thomas at his side, Kavanaugh and a conservative majority will be poised to further restrict women’s control over their own bodies and their access to contraceptive care.
Since 1995, American taxpayers have paid millions to settle sexual harassment and other discrimination cases against members of Congress. Are any sexual harassers sitting on the Senate Judiciary Committee? How about in the Senate, which will decide Kavanaugh’s fate?
Who knows? Their names are secret. Their settlements are confidential.
“Are you a scorned woman?” “Do you have a martyr complex?”
These are questions an all-white, all-male panel of senators asked Anita Hill in 1991. They also accused her of “erotomania” and wondered if she’d stolen a tale about pubic hairs on a Coke can from page 70 of the novel “The Exorcist,” which Senator Orrin Hatch, still on the panel today, held up and waved about.
And Hill – calm, consistent, rarely rattled, never defensive – endured this brutal, nationally televised assault with almost otherworldly dignity and complete credibility.
Then, an enraged and indignant Clarence Thomas thundered that Anita Hill had lied. He righteously and unequivocally denied all – just like Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Clinton, Roger Ailes, Roy Moore, Les Moonves, and Donald Trump, to name just a few accused of sexual misconduct, even crimes.
Now Kavanaugh has denied a crime too.
Of course journalists Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson later reported on other women’s claims of harassment against Clarence Thomas, four of whom were willing to testify against him but were denied. On the night that Trump’s “I just grab ’em by the pussy” tape went public, Alaska attorney Moira Smith wrote on Facebook that in 1999, when she was 24, Justice Thomas squeezed her rear end at a Washington dinner party.
Yet Thomas remains on the court, voting against women’s rights, reproductive choice, and equal pay. He voted for an employer’s supposed religious beliefs over female employees’ access to birth control. He voted to make it harder for an African-American dining service worker, a woman, to sue for racial and physical harassment. He also voted to weaken federal prohibitions on — yes — sexual harassment at work.
Thomas is 70. The like-minded Kavanaugh is 53. The court’s champion for women, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is 85. Her fellow liberal, Stephen Breyer, is 80. Trump could be president for six more years and appoint at least two justices to the court, if not more. Heaven help the women and girls of America.
In normal times, we demand a Supreme Court justice, liberal or conservative, of unassailable character. We’re not just picking a CEO or even a president but someone of far greater and lasting power. But these are not normal times.
I wonder: If a drunken 17-year-old Brett Kavanaugh were instead accused of painting swastikas on the local synagogue, would he still be heading to the court?
Or what if a black store owner claimed a sloshed young Kavanaugh barged into his business, shoved him to the ground, and robbed him while screaming the “n” word in his face?
Suppose a neighbor alleged that a blubbering Kavanaugh kicked his dog or tortured his cat?
Would America now recoil from a Justice Kavanaugh? What’s our standard?
But here’s where we are. Despite the #MeToo movement, pedophile priests, sexually predatory coaches, TV star rapists, congressmen with secret sex settlements — and a president multiply accused of sexual assault who brags about his ability to get away with it and apparently pays hush money to a porn star and a Playboy playmate — we don’t just doubt sex crime victims, we eviscerate them.
So now a respected and upstanding woman says Kavanaugh nearly raped her when she was but 15. Trump and his Republican enablers clearly don’t care if he did, or did not.
Margery Eagan is cohost of WGBH’s “Boston Public Radio.” Her column appears regularly in the Globe.